There are a lot of organizations that are new to Idea & Innovation Management solutions such as CorasWorks Cim for SharePoint 2010. One of the most significant best practices we emphasize for those new to innovation is the use of event-based Challenges to drive innovation vs. general idea communities. In this article, I’ll drill down into Challenges as a key ingredient in the standard enterprise recipe for innovation.
Specific Challenges vs. General Idea Management
First off most organizations use both approaches, general idea management and specific challenges. A mix is the best recipe. Let’s look at each.
Most organizations initially come to the idea and innovation game with the thought of having a general idea community to capture ideas and sort through them and find the great ones. It is typically implemented as an open, ongoing community with a team or teams for evaluation. What they are looking for is breakthrough ideas? This does work. People will randomly come up with novel ideas and you are providing a channel and a mechanism to work them when they pop up.
A Challenge-based approach to drive innovation is different. A Challenge is a targeted, time-limited, request to your community for ideas that address a specific objective. With this approach, we first decide what business objective we are after. And, ideally, upfront we allocate resources to invest in ideas we approve. We then set up the challenge community (like questions asked, information to be submitted) and evaluation process (how, who, when, etc.) in a way that specifically relates to the challenge. Then, we launch the Challenge, gather the ideas, collaborate, review, evaluate, make decisions, invest, and drive results.
Specific Benefits of a Challenge Approach
A Challenge approach delivers specific benefits as follows:
It Focuses Management on Defining the Challenge – Management must get clear on the challenge and how to present it to the organization. This insures that the challenge is a real one.
It Focuses Your Innovators and Collaborators Thoughts on the Challenge – Imagine saying to your employees “When you get around to it, submit ideas to make us better” vs. saying “You have 2 weeks to submit your idea for how we can grow the SMB market by 50% in 2012. We have $2m to invest.” It is simply easier for most people to focus their thinking on something specific. And, you therefore get specific ideas that are relevant to the challenge.
You Have the Resources to Act – If you get general ideas, they can come from anywhere. Thus, you can’t know in advance if you have the will and resources to act. But with a challenge you know what you are asking for. Thus, you have the will. You also can align the resources in advance to insure that you can and will act. You are telling your community that you intend to drive change that drives results.
You Uncover Options to Narrow Challenges – We typically address challenges and opportunities with a small group of people. When you take a narrowed challenge to your organization you will almost always be surprised by three things: a) how many options you really have, b) how much information and experience you have already, and c) who are the people that have something to contribute.
You Drive A Result – With a Challenge, you are taping into the broad potential of your organization and channeling their thought and experience towards your objective. With the breadth of ideas and the resources to back them up, you have your best shot at innovating around that targeted business objective.
CorasWorks Cim for Challenge Management
I’ll touch on five key features of Cim that make it particularly effective for managing challenges as part of a SharePoint 2010 work environment.
Separate, Customized Challenge Communities – With Cim, each challenge is a discrete entity. You can customize the contribute form, the questions, the experience and even look and feel, the categorization within each challenge, the user options, the visibility, etc. Further, the data is separated as with any Cim community it is technically a separate SharePoint site.
Multiple Challenges into Central Process – In a Challenge Management initiative you will have many challenges. They are easy to set up. They can all feed into a central management process, your Challenge Management hub, where they are evaluated and processed.
Separate Challenge Workstreams – At the same time, you can also have challenges where the front-end community and the evaluation process are part of a separately managed workstream. This provides you with the ability to have separate workstreams for say different types of challenges (Corporate vs. Technical vs. Market Development) or challenges driven by different business groups.
A Single, Easy and Convenient User Experience – With Cim, users have a single, consistent, easy and convenient user experience across multiple challenges, separate challenge workstreams, mixed with general innovation communities, and, with their other collaborative communities. When you launch a Challenge it just lights up at the fingertips of the user in their Cim Business Activity Stream. Thus, they can see new challenges, contribute and collaborate from wherever they normally work vs. having to go somewhere. In addition, all of the collaboration activity and process activity flows to them across all of the challenges and other communities. This drives visibility, engagement, and collaboration.
Drive Downstream Results – With Cim, after you have evaluated and approved the ideas in the Challenge you can push them into downstream activities to make them come alive. You can push them into Team sites for teams to implement. You can push them into a PMO to kick off and drive projects. You can push them into Program sites to implement an idea as part of their program. You can even push them into external systems, such as separate Project Management systems.
In sum, challenges are designed to let you tap into the broad potential of your people across the organization to address targeted business objectives. They are a key ingredient of the standard enterprise recipe to drive innovation. Armed with Cim running within your SharePoint environment, you have the means to just light up your organization and channel their thoughts and experience to help you drive results when and where you need it.